The 2020 election is still well over a year away but we’re already being inundated with candidates officially announcing their intentions to run as the Democratic nominee. In fact, at the time of this article 16 candidates have made their campaign announcements and some have already started to head out on the trail. Kirsten Gillibrand has already made political meme history with her campaign and the now infamous lady who was just trying to get some more ranch. Granted it is still early in the process, but this isn’t the first time Dems have started their run to take down a highly disliked president up for his 2nd term by flooding the voters with so many options. It hasn’t ever ended well, and it looks like that’s the road we’re heading down once again.
The problem with this type of approach to winning the bid for the White House is that it leaves voters in the same party to take sides. Already on Twitter we have heated debates between #Bernie2020 and #NeverBernie. This isn’t a good sign. In 2016 there was similar infighting between Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters. We all know how that turned out, and it’s obvious that in the end, neither side was happy with the final outcome. Bernie’s supporters felt slighted and Hillary’s supporters blamed them for Trump’s ultimate victory, insisting that had they supported Hillary from the get-go this never would’ve happened. It’s hard to know if that’s true, but Dems do have a history of splitting the vote within their own party.
In 2004 while Bush was running for his 2nd term we saw similar desperation in the Democrats to make his presidency a one-term situation. With 10 candidates running in the primary, all vying for a chance to knock Bush out of the picture there was again a split in party voters. We had fewer options for internet-based voter fighting in 2004 but local discussions all around had opinions on which candidate would be best. Not everyone wanted to vote for Kerry, and Lieberman ended up being a polarizing figure as well. With Kerry eventually ending up with the official nomination for the Dems, many voters felt they were stuck voting for a candidate they didn’t feel even slightly passionate about. Even with the popular slogan of “Anybody but Bush” Democrats still took a loss and we ended up with a 2nd term of a Bush presidency.
In reality, Democrats have been doing this to their own voters for a very long time. Looking back to the famous 1860 election and the split in the Democratic party which at the time offered two candidates, Lincoln ended up winning though he only had 40% of the popular vote. The pattern we’re seeing throughout the history of the Democratic party is that more often than not when key elections are at stake, the Dems are defeating themselves. While the Dems are infighting over the best party representative, Republicans have more often been willing to come together as one. Republicans have in the past viewed this as a solidarity issue, while Democrats have gone so far as to criticize eliminated candidates who then endorsed the official DNC nominee. In 2016 when Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton many of his most loyal supporters expressed frustration, disappointment, and even flat out refusal to vote for Hillary. A common feeling of voters wanting someone to vote for instead of a candidate to vote against has taken root, and it’s not going away. It’s also not too much to ask when you really think about it. We should have candidates we believe in, instead of being forced to choose what feels like the lesser of two evils. But how do we get there? The answer to that remains somewhat murky right now.
It’s clear there are many great options already starting to shine in the group of officially announced candidates. Bernie is once again a favorite, and his base of supporters are just as zealous as they were in 2016. His campaign announcement was met with a record-breaking 6 million dollars in donations within the first 24 hours, beating the record Kamala Harris had held by 4.5 million dollars. There are also several Dems who have been holding out on making an announcement, while still being favorites among the voters. Neither Biden nor Beto O’Rourke have made announcements yet, but both are highly anticipated candidates that are already drawing a strong supporter base. It’s still early enough in this race to find a candidate that gives people what they want. Someone to believe in. Someone to actually be excited to vote for. A reason to go to the polls that isn’t just about trying to overcome an adversary, but truly about choosing a candidate they are fully passionate about.
Getting to the ultimate goal of a candidate that isn’t going to split the vote isn’t an unattainable goal but it is going to take work. Voters are going to need to show up, be vocal, and stand strong together. We may have to make some initial compromises to come to a common ground. This is politics, so in truth, no one candidate is ever going to embody every single opinion of every potential voter out there. What we need to do is be willing to look at what common interests the party has overall, and move forward with voracity based on those things. We need to be active in getting registered and helping other people get registered. Primaries are going to play a huge role in this election (just as they did in 2016) and we can’t view them as an optional part of the process anymore. It’s just not going to work if we want a candidate that excites rather than divides. We need to move past complacency and into action in the early parts of the election process. The DNC needs to hear our voices as voters, and the only way that’s going to happen is if we speak up loudly and often. The time to act is now; before decisions have been cemented into official ballots for 2020. Is history going to repeat itself this time around? It’s possible, but we have all the tools we need to prevent another term of Trump. The key is going to be putting those tools into use, and that, is up to us.